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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University August 20, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 42
Farewell to Miss Minnie

After 60 years on the Homewood campus, Minnie Hargrow will leave the President's Office at the end of the month.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

One of the university's longest-serving staff members set to retire

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

An extraordinary woman whom some call the face of Johns Hopkins will retire this month after more than six decades of service.

Minnie Hargrow, known by seemingly all as "Miss Minnie," has been a constant on the Homewood campus since 1946 and a beacon of cheerfulness for generations of Hopkins students. She worked her first 34 years in the Levering Hall and AMR I cafeterias and since 1981 has served as an assistant to four university presidents. Known for her upbeat attitude and constant smile, Miss Minnie long ago reached iconic status.

She officially retires on Aug. 31, just a month shy of her 61st anniversary.

To celebrate her many years of service to her beloved Johns Hopkins, the university will throw Miss Minnie a grand farewell from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 6, in Levering's Glass Pavilion. The event is open to the entire Johns Hopkins community.

Hargrow, now 85, said the reason for her retirement is health-related; specifically, arthritis in her legs and arms that have made it increasingly difficult to walk stairs and lift objects.

"That made the decision for me," she said. "So, it's time for me to get out of Dodge." Otherwise, Hargrow said, she'd be happy to continue to perform work she loves for a university she has deep affection for.

Born on a farm in North Carolina, Hargrow moved north in the mid-1940s after her husband returned from serving in World War II.

She came to Johns Hopkins on Oct. 1, 1946, to work in the cafeteria. Her aunt worked for the university at the time and had encouraged her to apply. She had previously worked two years at the student cafeteria at George Washington University.

When she arrived at JHU, the Homewood campus was a much different place. It had only eight major buildings and the student population was strictly male, all of whom wore suits to class.

She lived in West Baltimore then and had to take three buses to get to work at 6 a.m. every day. She fondly recalls the day she could afford a car.

She spent her first nine years serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to faculty, staff and students and served the next 25 years as a food service supervisor.

One day in 1981, a representative from the President's Office came over to Levering to ask Miss Minnie if she knew of someone on her staff who could replace the retiring assistant to the president. She had a quick reply.

"I said, yeah, me," said Hargrow, who is lightning quick with a laugh and a smile. "I didn't think I would get it, though, because I thought [President Steven Muller] would want a male. But they came back two hours later and said, you've got the job, when can you start?"

As the president's assistant, Hargrow sets up for meetings, greets people, sorts mail and does whatever else is necessary. She jokes that she probably spends more time in President Brody's office than he does.

She also is famous for doing favors for people in the office, whether it's to get them a cup of coffee or even cash a check at the Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union. Since everyone at the bank knew her, they never asked questions.

In addition to Brody, Hargrow has worked for Muller, Bill Richardson and Daniel Nathans. Four very different men, she said.

"Each one had a very different style," she said. "Someone once asked me how have I managed to work for all these different presidents. I said, by doing it their way. I got along with all of them. When I found out their way, it was easy for me."

In addition to her duties with the President's Office, she has volunteered countless hours for the United Way and a local nursing home, where she "likes to take care of the old people."

What has kept her at Johns Hopkins for six decades? Hargrow said that she simply loves the university.

"It's like a family here," said Hargrow, whose daughter, Brenda Brockman, also works in the President's Office. "I enjoy everybody. It's always been a pleasure to come into the office every morning."

Jerry Schnydman, executive assistant to the president, said that it will be a sad day when Miss Minnie leaves Hopkins. He said that she comes into the office every day with a smile on her face and always has a kind word to say.

She can also scold you when you've done something wrong, he said.

Schnydman learned the hard way, when he was an undergraduate and he and some fellow lacrosse teammates loosened the tops on some salt and pepper shakers in the cafeteria where Hargrow worked at the time. Schnydman said he got an earful.

"She loves to tell others what I was like as a student, but then she always adds, 'Just look at him now, big shot working in the President's Office,' " Schnydman said with a laugh.

He said that her kindness and spirit are legendary.

"She is like a mother and grandmother to everyone here," he said. "She's just been a rock for everybody. She is an extremely honorable and caring person. I have been working in this office for nine and a half years, and every day I come in and say: 'Good morning, Miss Minnie. How are you today?' And she always says, 'I'm doing just great.' That's her in a nutshell."

President Brody said that Miss Minnie sees the good in everybody and everything.

"She is always upbeat, never without a smile on her face," he said. "I don't know what we're going to do without her."

Schnydman said that Miss Minnie's position will not be filled and that her responsibilities will be assumed by others in the office. Just as well, because her shoes would have been impossible to fill.


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